Zero has street cred as prime number for cars
THE Detroit Auto Show has been the place where automakers try to outmuscle each other with mind-boggling horsepower numbers and performance claims. But this year, manufacturers showcasing new cars and new technology are focusing more than ever on zero, as in zero emissions or zero gasoline consumed rather than the much vaunted zero-to-60mph times.
Pushed by consumers worried about rising gasoline prices and global warming and prodded by the federal government, which has mandated a leap in fuel efficiency, car companies at this year’s show have turned the corner on their commitment to alternative fuels.
One thing is clear just walking the aisles at this year’s show: consumer sentiment is changing and automakers are scrambling to address it.
There will always be room for highperformance, exhilarating cars, but they’ll probably sell in lower volume in the future,’’ said Mark LaNeve, General Motor Co’s head of sales and marketing. The consumer focus now is on higher fuel prices and environmental concerns.
We’re entering a new phase the industry and there will be big change in powertrains, size of vehicles and what people buy. We’re just beginning to see that change.’’
Competition between GM and Toyota Motor Corp — already locked in a battle over No.1 in global sales — intensified on the green front Monday with Toyota announcing plans to race GM to market with plug-in hybrids that use lithium-ion batteries by as early as 2010. On Sunday, both touted research plans to derive sources.
All around the show at Cobo Center, car companies that seemingly had ceded interest in hybrids and other clean’’ technologies to Toyota and Honda are now singing their virtues. And that includes such unlikely players as Land Rover, whose LRX concept packs a two-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine teamed with lithium-ion batteries.
One company even managed to make ethanol almost sexy: Ferrari announced that it was experimenting with the biofuel in its exotic sports cars to lower emissions and improve mileage. It showed a prototype F430 Spyder that burns E85, the ethanol/gasoline blend, and wears green biofuel labels.
David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, says automakers recognised that being green is good business. Toyota cemented its reputation for being a technology and environmental leader as the biggest proponent of hybrids. Toyota sold 277,000 of the gas/electrics in the US last year, about three-fourths of the industry total.
Now GM is ramping up production of hybrids and vehicles that run on E85, an area in which Toyota is lacking.
That competition is very natural,’’ Cole says. You have the two largest companies in the industry, and these guys are going to go after each other hammer and tong.’’ Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe says, We’re not just limiting ourselves to GM, but the entire industry. We don’t want to be the loser in this competition, of course.’’
Toyota plans to offer hybrid technology in all of its model lines by 2020 and is also developing pure electric and fuel-cell vehicles.
fuel from non-food
Green appeal: Biofuel-powered Ferrari F430 Spyder